The Economist just published a list of the cities with the dirtiest air in the world’s largest economies. But that’s nothing, until you look at the source database from the World Health Organization, which I managed to find for download here. Find your city and compare it to others. I was staggered to find Montreal as Canada’s most polluted city, despite being global leaders in hydro power. The USA has pretty good air quality in just about every city including the giants of NY, and LA.
It’s bad enough trusting the information you see on the internet, but when the last bastions of integrity begin to fall, where do you turn? The answer apparently is: Nowhere! Scientific peer-reviewed journals are [were] one such place, but it seems that even these have become corrupted. From The Scientist, an article about the sudden shift in editorial policy at one prestigious cardiology journal:
The Canadian scientific journal Experimental & Clinical Cardiology used to publish well-founded studies in the field and was widely read within the cardiology community. But since being sold and moved offshore in 2013, the journal is now publishing anything submitted along with a fee of $1,200, packaging spurious studies as serious scientific papers.
I wrote this in response to the question, why do people do this stuff?
A friend of mine is a journalist. He worked for many years for some major newspapers. He also worked early in his career for one of rags that post outrageous “news”, e.g., alien babies, man trapped in abandoned department store revolving door for 7 years, etc. He told me that the smartest people he ever met were at this phoney news outlet. In his words: “They got a real kick out of seeing how far they could bend the truth and still have people believe it”. I think that’s a good chunk of it today, plus the crazies and the worst of all, the true believers, i.e., those who are so clear-headed in their self-evident truth that they feel the end justifies the means.
Probably most important is: Money and influence. I realized this reading a FaceBook post on the purported benefits of Himalayan sea salt. At first it seemed a joke, but the passion of the believers in this stuff made me curious so I did a search, only to uncover hundreds of web sites selling the stuff, backed up by loads of spurious claims and “science” to back them up. It turns out there’s big money in stupid!
My grandmother used to put a tablespoon of butter in her morning coffee. We all thought it was really weird, but since she didn’t eat much, we saw it as a small peccadillo on her part. She was never overweight. Rarely ate breakfast, had a light lunch and dinner. Never smoked. Never admitted to hospital. Had a couple of small procedures over her lifespan: Removal of a tiny fishbone from her throat in the ER, and a breast lumpectomy under local anaesthesia in the doctor’s office at age 85. Died at age 96 (or more; old Greek ladies tended to lie about their age).
Now comes “Bulletproof coffee”. A couple tablespoons of grass-fed butter and two more of MCT oil (whatever the Hell that is) in two cups of coffee, blended up and drunk down for breakfast. Proponents claim it is a powerful weight-loss tool as well as tasting great. Good summary in this Men’s Journal article. Photo from the article. Seems to be the “next new thing” in dieting and health.
Did bulletproofing her coffee add to my grandmother’s health and longevity? Sure it did. It was magic! Couldn’t have been the fact that she ate very small quantities of food, never smoked, worked physically all day, and rushed to the doctor at the slightest symptom (Mediterranean Syndrome)! Nah….it was the butter and coffee.
Like kidney stones…this too will pass.
Every generation thinks it invented all the hot trends. But in most cases, they are often ideas recycled from generations past. Here’s a wonderful skit with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca at the health food restaurant. It looks late 1950’s. Hilarious. Plus ca change!
Thanks to Mr. Dario for this find, an interesting chart showing what the death rate looks like by country, when you combine homicide and suicide. Since the numbers appear to be roughly from 2010, and drawn likely in 2008-9, I would assume Syria and Egypt no longer hold their lofty status? And how the Hell can we be twice the rate of Haiti? C’Monnnnnn.
David L. Katz has a sterling pedigree in the world of medicine: He is Director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. Dr. Katz writes extensively and often controversially about topics in health, especially around diet and nutrition. His articles are almost always “different” in their take and equally entertaining and engaging. His latest piece, Fed Up, Confused, and Still Eating is really worth a read. He makes the analogy between sex and eating as powerful biological drives, the former under strict social control and the latter, run amuck:
So there you have it: being hungry is like being horny, but with no rules.
Katz goes on to deal with and put to rest the bogus issue of willpower:
Clearly, lack of will power does not explain epidemic obesity. There is no basis in either science or sense to infer that the current crop of 7-year-olds lacks will power that every prior cohort had – yet they are much more subject to obesity and diabetes. Kids are much the same as they ever were; their environment has changed. So, no, will power is not the cause.
As a public health expert, Katz’s view is necessarily 30,000 ft. He looks at obesity as an interplay between personal choices and environmental context, i.e., what’s available to eat. The two are an inseparable gestalt of foreground and background. His ongoing attack on those who rehash old theories while dismissing recent evidence is also significant. Atkins, Paleo, South Beach, have all been around in various incarnations for 100 years or more. Katz points out that singling out individual foods as culprits, even sugar, is a distraction from the real challenge.
But we are NOT clueless about the basic care and feeding of Homo sapiens, and much of the apparent debate is all heat and no light. Of course calories and energy balance matter, but just as obviously- so do the sources of that energy.
An important read. have a look.
Since turning 60 last Summer, I’ve becoming more interested in the process of getting old(er). While the physical changes are undeniable and inevitable, their rate of onset isn’t necessarily fixed in stone, and much can be done to slow down the process (nutrition, exercise, etc.). The psychological dimension is another thing though.
A number of my friends have retired early. They fill their days with many banal activities; former “hobbies” that have now assumed a much greater role in their lives: Stamp collecting, bird watching, long road-trips, reading, Sudoku, crossword puzzles, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with these activities per se, it’s just that they are insufficient to maintain a mental edge the way working in a productive environment surrounded by young people who constantly challenge you can.
My own plan is to die on the job; taken out horizontally, fingers still scrolling and texting on my iPhone. My idol in this sense is the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who having already been written off in his ’60s as a has-been, stunned the architectural world be designing and building his masterpiece, the Guggenheim Museum at age 92!
In my humble opinion, the first step to forestalling old age then is to work productively at something you enjoy and that is validated by society through substantial remuneration. It should also bring you in contact with young people whom you empower to kick your intellectual ass on a regular basis. Teaching at a university springs to mind as an interesting option.
The second step is to make sure your stuff is either in very good shape or current. There is a difference between antiques and junk. I have noticed that old people often settle into a material mustiness; their furniture is old, creaky, worn, poorly maintained, and uncomfortable. Their clothing dates back several decades, as do their cars, TV’s, home, etc. Don’t get me wrong, the stuff still works “well-enough” for them….although in reality, not very well at all. It’s just that they have lowered their standards and expectations; often they can’t see well enough to notice the changes, are resistant to their kids telling them, or are just plain cheap, wearing frugality as some badge of honour. Their stuff becomes a reflection and metaphor of their old age.
The third step is to embrace technology and stay on top of it. My mother in-law got her first laptop about seven years ago at age 85! She has learned to email, manage photos, and browse the net for stuff related to her hobbies. She often sends me racy jokes or forwards interesting stuff from her internet-savvy buddies. At 92 she’s still damned sharp and a joy to have a discussion with. I am still blown away by people in their 50’s and 60’s who don’t email and still go to the bank for regular, simple transactions. They have voicemail….but rarely check it, rendering it useless for others to leave them a message. Embracing the constant learning curve necessitated by technology is a great way to stay sharp.
If you hadn’t noticed, let me confirm that my fitness interests have shifted over the years from aggressive efforts that produce quick results that ultimately don’t last, to a search for the Holy Grail: A way of living that is naturalistic, i.e., fits in with how I live and my environment, as well as being sustainable for a long time.
It isn’t easy. Intuitive eating sounds terrific, but it is extremely tough to reconnect with long-buried and overwhelmed connections of hunger and satiety. As for exercise….try fitting in a “natural” workout when the temperature has been around -20C for a month!
I was however, quite inspired by MovNat, an interesting shift in exercise philosophy that focuses on functional movements, i.e., movements that enhance the things you do every day. Great quote:
And with that one word — “practical” — Le Corre exposes a key weakness in modern exercise: Our workouts are domesticated, while the world out there is still plenty wild. In a pinch, can a man put gym-generated biceps and tank-tread abs to any real use? Could it be that our treadmill-running, elliptical-gliding, well-oiled Cybex world has turned us into show dogs who can’t hold our own in the hunt?
Truly awesome! No ads. Powerful, flexible, and realistic workouts in under a half hour without equipment. Perfect for travel or at home. Only a giant like J&J could have sponsored such an amazing app.